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Analysis of MTV Networks: The Arabian Challenge

Introduction

With the boom of globalization and the world’s growing love of celebrities, it was about time that the music and youth entertainment industry tapped into the consumer hungry Arabian market. MTV saw this opportunity as a move that could unite the Arabian population by showcasing local talent on a world stage, as well as bringing international stars into the region. The market for an international music channel in the Middle East was untapped at that time, but the market showcasing local music was saturated. Despite this, the region offered massive opportunities for growth if MTV could successfully translate and adapt their strategy into one that could be successful in a culture that had major differences to their business culture. MTV Networks (MTVN) expanded into the Middle East with MTV Arabia in November 2007, through a partnership with Arab Television Network (ATN). Besides the United States, the Middle East would be MTVN’s largest audience at approximately 190 million viewers. To compensate for the different culture and local tastes, MTV needed to be fully aware of all the differences between each Arabian demographic and other markets around the globe that MTV had already entered.

“Experts felt that one of the biggest challenges faced by MTV while launching MTV Arabia was the prevalent culture in the Arab world. Discuss the Arab culture. How is it expected to pose a challenge to MTV?”

The Arab culture presents two major problems for MTV: The first is that the Arab culture traditionally does not respond well to the typical content that MTV broadcasts, and the second is that the Arab culture is vastly different than any market MTV has previously entered.

The assertion that what MTV caters and what Middle Eastern culture doesn’t line up well assumes that MTV will be catering to the entire Middle Eastern population. The case implies that beyond just region, how traditional a person from the Middle East is also depends upon their age (younger being generally less traditional, while the elders tend to be more traditional). This would partially negate the challenge that MTV faces of adjusting their programming to local tastes, as their younger target demographic is more aware of the international music culture because of the Internet and accessibility. Because of the secondary impact on a region broadcasting can have, it is still important that MTV maintains the friendship and openness towards governments, and assure them that the programming and content they will offer will not go against what they feel is appropriate. This is especially important because of anti-American sentiments following early 2000s entry of American troops into Middle Eastern countries.

The case stated that MTV thought the anti-American sentiments were not something to worry about, but being quick to look over those would be a mistake. Arabians are very relationship-oriented when negotiating business, meaning they want to trust, respect, and get to know businesspersons before dealing with them. Reassuring locals that there is no reason for MTV to be grouped in with those sentiments should be treated as an important hurdle to clear before moving too far forward (Al-Awsat, 2006).

There was an apparent contrast between the “explicit hip-hop music culture portrayed by MTV and the conservative social culture prevalent in the Middle East” (Deresky, 2014) when MTV Arabia first entered the market. The challenge here is finding a happy medium between MTV’s ‘notoriously risqué programming’ and very culturally sensitive Arabian traditions while maintaining MTV business culture and the ‘edge’ that made the network so popular in the first place.

The big difference between MTV business culture and Middle Eastern countries’ culture is the predominant religions and how they affect business. MTV is an American company and therefore were accustomed to Christianity. MTV had...
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